Brand defined

July 11, 2011

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“A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time…the product of a thousand small gestures.”

~ Michael Eisner (while CEO at Disney)

There is it, in all its simplicity.  Your brand is alive.  And with every small gesture, every detail, every extra mile traveled and each ignored opportunity — you either enrich or undermine all of the previous efforts.

With every decision, big or small, you should be asking yourself — are we enriching or undermining our brand.  And then behave accordingly.

What small gestures have you noticed in others or in your own organization that enhance the brand?


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Are you in the emotional transportation biz?

June 25, 2011

…We’ve always found a way to tell our stories

It’s no secret that I am an unabashed fan of storytelling.  It is how we learn when we’re school kids, it’s how we get our friends to do crazy things (“think of what a great story this will be to tell your kids, Steve!) and it’s how we persuade each other — be it to vote for a candidate, buy a particular brand of cologne or share our religious beliefs.

Look at how reality TV has captured that truth.  We come to cheer for perfect strangers who become important to us — because we know their story.

We are, by our very nature, storytellers AND story absorbers.

And yet…in our business communications, all too often, we blather on about facts, figures and bullet points rather than letting the stories connect us to people who are drawn to them.  Which is why I really want you to read Peter Guber‘s Tell to Win. (click here to buy*)

Peter Guber is the founder and CEO of Mandalay Entertainment and owns NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Before creating Mandalay, he was Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, Co-Owner of the Guber-Peters Entertainment Company, Chairman and CEO of Polygram, Co-Founder of Casablanca Record & Filmworks and President of Columbia Pictures.

So the man knows the power of stories in both business and entertainment.

“Emotional transportation” is what Guber calls the power of story telling and he says “more and more, success is won by creating compelling stories that have the power to move partners, shareholders, customers, and employees to action. Simply put, if you can’t tell it, you can’t sell it.”

I can’t argue with that.

As you might imagine, considering his career, Guber tells stories via the voices of  Magic Johnson, Michael Jackson, Wolfgang Puck, the founder of YouTube Chad Hurley, Bill Clinton, Michael Milken, director Tim Burton, Nelson Mandela, Mark Burnett, author Nora Roberts, Tina Sinatra, Anderson Cooper, Larry King, Steven Spielberg, Arianna Huffington, and many more.  So the read is entertaining while it educates.

The book outlines techniques you can use to create purposeful stories like changing passive listeners into active participants and using “state of the heart” technology on and offline to keep your audience connected to your story.

At the end of each chapter, Guber calls out the aHHa! elements of that section.  Like many business books, he gives you a formula for creating better, more compelling stories and then gives you plenty of examples to draw from.

Even if you’re already telling stories left and right — there are some nuances to be learned from this book.  be sure you come back and tell us a story of how you used what you learned!


*Yup, an affiliate link.  The author sent me an advanced copy of this book to review.  So did a bunch of other authors.  But this book is worth sharing with you.
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Viva the underdog!

May 24, 2011


…a blast from our past…it’s Underdog

Most of our clients at McLellan Marketing Group could be classified as underdogs.  Call them challenger brands, the little guy or the rising star — but odds are, they have a Goliath or two in their path.

We love helping them topple the big guys and steal their thunder.  In fact, we believe that it’s a market ADVANTAGE not to be the biggest.  Yup…. being an underdog is a plus in our book.

Why?  In today’s world of constant change, it’s a lot easier to win the hearts and minds of buyers if you’re nimble, not bound by layers of corporate and committee decision making and you can wear your heart on your sleeve.  Market leaders don’t actually want to engage in a fight and they hate scrappy little guys who take them off their well prescribed path.  That’s how you beat them — you make them play your game.

Here’s the unspoken truth of underdog marketing.  You don’t have to actually destroy the industry leader — you just need to take a good sized piece of his pie.  In fact, you don’t, in most cases, want to be the leader.   Why wear the target on your back?  It’s more fun to be the challenger — the one who can break some rules, change the game… and create love affairs with your customers.

That’s why I was eager to read Stephen Denny’s book Killing Giants (click here to buy*)  Denny interviewed 70 “giant killers” and tells their story in his new book which outlines some powerful techniques for knocking the big guys down a peg or two.

The book presents 10 strategies that businesses can adopt to overcome a market leader. The strategies run from taking advantage of the speed and agility of being small to the willingness to take on some risks that the big boys can’t stomach.

He’s structured the book well — each chapter is divided into the strategy, the stories and the take aways.  My only “complaint” is that Denny’s underdogs are what many of us would consider to be giants in their own right — like Adobe or Hersey’s Krackel.  But it’s a good reminder that even large organizations like Hershey can be an underdog and have to think differently.  The techniques they used translate just fine to a local bank or CPA.  So don’t dismiss the book just because many of the examples are national brands you recognize.

I think you’ll find the book gets you fired up to go out there and take on a giant or two!



*Yup, it’s an affiliate link.  Also — Stephen sent me a copy of his book to review. You know me well enough to know I only review books I think you’ll find valuable. (I get several every day…so I am pretty choosey.)
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The mobile revolution is coming. Are you ready?

May 9, 2011

Consider these mobile facts:

  • By 2013 — 50%of web traffic will come from mobile devices.
  • 91% of mobile users consume social media on their mobile device.
  • The US population is approx. 306 million. 69 million of those people have smart phones today.

I’ve mentioned before that by 2020, the #1 way we will access the web is through our smartphones.  That’s only 9 years away.  Is your business getting ready for the mobile revolution?

Check out this video on the smartphone consumer and the mobile movement.  Notice how their behaviors are already radically changing and we’re in the infancy of this trend.

Are you poo pooing this because you’re a B2B company?  Better think again.  Check out this free PDF from my brilliant pal Christina Kerley — filled with case studies, video links and more — all showing you how mobile is affecting B2B.

Remember how the web changed the way you did business, marketed your business and in some ways — literally changed who your customers were?  Mobile is going to do the same thing.  If you’re prepared.

I’m curious — what are you doing to get ready?


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Taglines that stick

May 5, 2011



I think most taglines used by businesses today are a cop out.  They feel good but promise nothing. A reader wrote and asked if I’d talk about the other side of the coin – what makes a tagline great?

Creating and using a strong tagline takes real courage.  A tagline that will last for decades is one that makes a bold statement or promise.

So what do you need to consider as you evaluate your own tagline?

A strong tagline makes someone take pause. It might be the person it’s directed at like – Just Do It.  Or it might be the employee who has to keep the promise – when it absolutely positively has to be there overnight.

A memorable tagline should be a bit daunting.  That’s why it’s impressive.  If BMW has told us their cars were a nice ride, would you have remembered?  But who doesn’t want to drive the ultimate driving machine?  Talk about setting high expectations!

An enduring tagline is tied specifically to the product/service: Another element of a strong, test of time tagline is that we connect it to the company who owns it.  We don’t remember it just because it’s clever.  We remember who said it.  Take this little quiz. Who told us “you deserve a break today” or promised us “we try harder.”

This is where the generic taglines about “our people” and quality lose their steam.  Who doesn’t believe they provide good quality and that their people are dedicated to their jobs?

A memorable tagline tells a story: In a single sentence, we got the picture when Timex told us “it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.”  We can only imagine what might happen if forgot the warning “don’t leave home without it.”

We learn through stories.  We teach lessons through stories.  And we buy and sell around stories.  It’s much easier for us to remember a story than straight facts.  Which is why a story telling tagline sticks.

A powerful tagline points out how the product/service is unique: Who doesn’t know the unique advantage of an M&M?  They “melt in your mouth, not in your hand,” right?  The Marine’s tagline reminds us that they’re very choosy about who they let into their club.  “The few.  The proud.  The Marines” lets us know that there’s exclusivity to their brand.

Everyone wants a strong tagline but most businesses are afraid to make a bold promise.  What happens if it doesn’t get there overnight?  Or if the watch breaks?

Good marketers understand that a tagline is not an absolute.  Sure, every once in awhile you’re going to miss the mark.  But how you handle it when you fall short is part of the brand promise too.


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Is your mobile app about you or about me?

March 30, 2011

It seems like just about everyone is jumping onto the mobile app (iPhone, Droid, Blackberry) wagon these days.  Most apps fall into one of four categories:

  • They’re functional/useful (they help you do something you want to do)
  • They’re about access/ease (they help you get stuff/information you need)
  • They’re entertaining (they amuse us, keep us busy, are funny)
  • They’re lame (they couldn’t think how to fit into one of the above, so they’re sort of dumb)

For many brands, they’re rushing to be there but have no idea why.  (which leads to lame apps like Coke’s* — where you you tip it back and it’s like your drinking a Coke – sound effects and all)

It’s much easier to create a functional or get me access type app.  You’re Walgreen’s and you let me renew my prescriptions.  You’re DropBox and you let me access my files. But to be genuinely entertaining AND drive home your brand message?  Now that’s impressive.

See the difference?  Coke’s app is about them and how refreshing they are.  Walgreen’s and DropBox are about the user and what they want/need.

That’s why I am applauding Sealy’s app called the In Bed Tagger.  (Keep in mind that their tagline is: Whatever you do in bed, Sealy supports it.)  Watch this brief video to see their app in action.


They got it.  An app isn’t a sales gimmick or supposed to be a digital brochure.  And it’s not about them.  Their app is all about the user and having some fun with the old fortune cookie game.  By focusing their app on us… it tells us a great deal about them.


*In fairness, I will say Coke’s other apps, like their snowglobe app, are much more about the user and therefore…more fun and more like the brand I know and love.


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